Does Shiva smoke Marijuana?
Marijuana or Cannabis is taken from the Cannabis plant & has medicinal properties. It has been used since time immemorial in religious & spiritual rites.
Under normal conditions it is illegal to sell, transport, cultivate or possess Marijuana as it is widely, accepted as a drug, in India. However, it is made available locally in certain cities, under government regulation & is sold in shops in the form of ‘Bhang’ for observance of Hindu rites & rituals.
In the ancient myths associated with the gods and Shiva, long before the creation of the universe, the devas or gods, churned a cosmic ocean in order to obtain Amrita (elixir of life) for attaining immortality. It is said that Marijuana plants grew at all places where the nectar dropped or touched the earth. In one of the myths, Shiva reinvigorated himself in the heat of the sunlight by consuming leaves of the Marijuana plants. He is also said to have adopted the plant as a part of his favourite diet & is therefore often called “Lord of Bhang.”
Bhang essentially, is an Indian beverage prepared by blending cannabis with different herbs and spices. According to the Atharva Veda – the fourth book of the Vedas, ‘bhang’ is one of the ‘five kingdoms of herbs, which relieves anxiety’. Thus, it is said to have medicinal properties.
It is offered as a gift to Shiva by devotees, especially during the Shivaratri festival. This can be seen at the temples of Benares, Baidyanath, Tarakeswar & Pashupatinath. After the ritual & ceremony it is also consumed as Prasad by devotees & yogis. Consuming it in reasonable proportions is believed to cleanse sins, unite the soul with god & avoid the torments of hell in the afterlife. However, excessive consumption, without adherence to rituals, is viewed as sinful.
Other Marijuana products, used as part of conventional Hindu life for invigoration include substances like “Charas & Ganja” which are smoked & eaten. While Ganja is a substance prepared from flowering marijuana plants, Charas is prepared from the apex of Cannabis flowers, which are in full bloom.
All these are part of many rites & ceremonies besides being necessary for survival. Their medicinal value is said to assist in Sadhana or meditative practice, by enabling the yogis to overcome the miseries of the body & enter a state of trance. In the extreme climatic conditions of the mountainous regions, marijuana products help calm the nerves, in the biting cold. The mighty Shiva has thus been invoked on many an occasion, be it wedding ceremonies, prayers before battles or for spiritual advancement, with this holy herb.
One can thus conclusively say that Shiva does consume Marijuana in various forms, however, he does so purely to weather the climatic extremities of the mountains & to assist in his spiritual advancement; For such mighty a being as Shiva, who was capable of drinking all of ‘Halahal’ (the most potent poison, churned out of the cosmic ocean along with the Amrita) such consumption is of little consequence. Misuse of the substance, by ordinary mortals, to escape their duties under the guise of following Shiva, is viewed as incorrect & against the laws of righteous conduct. Regulated amounts during festivities, as part of ritual requirements is acceptable and legal.